Actor's backside bared in cold remedy spot

Updated: January 7, 2005, 9:27 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Mickey Rooney's bare end zone won't be part of the Super Bowl advertising blitz, Fox TV said Friday.

The network rejected a cold remedy commercial that includes a brief shot of the 84-year-old actor's behind, said Fox Sports spokesman Lou D'Ermilio.

Airborne flying high
Airborne Inc. might garner more publicity thanks to Fox's rejection of its 15-second ad. That's because the small company won't be spending the $1.2 million its officials had planned to pay and is on a stage of its own as commentators will undoubtedly debate the spot's appropriateness over the next couple weeks.

"It's a maelstrom," said Rider McDowell, co-owner of the company. "We've had calls from Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Leno and Letterman. This whole thing has turned into good fortune for us."

All eight assistants who answer the phones for the company located in Carmel, Calif., can hardly take a breather, McDowell said.

Eric Wright of Joyce Julius & Associates, a sponsorship evaluation firm, said that Airborne could enjoy media mentions worth between $1 million and $4 million from the nixing. But Wright also said Airborne might have done better if its ad were included in the telecast.

"Not being in the Super Bowl rotation obviously will lead to some lost exposure with the media previewing and reviewing the ads," Wright said. "If their ad was chosen as the best one, the publicity would definitely be worth more."

The company is still trying to fight Fox's decision, having lodged a five-page complaint letter with the Federal Communications Commission.

Airborne's business has grown by 15 times in 2004, McDowell said, thanks to ads on Howard Stern and the fact that Oprah Winfrey called it one of her favorite products.

-- Darren Rovell

"Our standards department reviewed the ad, and it was deemed inappropriate for broadcast television," he said.

The commercial for the over-the-counter product Airborne is set in a sauna and depicts Rooney panicking when someone coughs. His towel drops as he rushes out, revealing his rear.

Fox's decision wasn't affected by fallout from last year's Super Bowl halftime show on CBS, which included a flash of Janet Jackson's breast, D'Ermilio said.

"Our standards and practices haven't changed," he said.

The Federal Communications Commission levied a $550,000 fine against CBS parent company Viacom over the Jackson incident. Viacom is contesting the fine.

Rooney, whose films include the Andy Hardy series and "National Velvet," said he was disappointed by Fox's move and hoped the network would reconsider.

"I would never do anything that's in bad taste. … I've been a family entertainer all my life," Rooney told The Associated Press. "We're not selling sex, we're selling a health product."

Rooney and his wife, Jan, are touring nationally in a stage production, "Let's Put on a Show."

Rider McDowell, co-owner of Carmel-based Airborne Inc., also defended the ad Friday: "There's nothing titillating about this spot, nor was there intended to be a sexual aspect to it."

The company has filed a complaint with the FCC to try to reverse Fox's decision, although McDowell said it was somewhat understandable "given the prevailing climate of censorship about nudity on television shows."

In a Jan. 3 letter to the commission, attorneys for Airborne argued the ad is not indecent and asked the FCC to either order Fox to run the ad during the game or ask Fox to provide more information on why it rejected it.

An FCC spokeswoman told USA Today that the commission, which responds to complaints after a broadcast, would never issue such an order, the newspaper reported Friday.

Given that it would cost $1.2 million to air the 15-second ad during the Feb. 6 football championship game, the company won't spend that kind of money if it can't be assured maximum effect, McDowell said.

"We had to come up something sensational that would leave people with a lingering buzz or chuckle," he said. "To edit that out would be to emasculate the ad somewhat."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press